Commencement Spotlight: Syed Zaidi

From administering COVID-19 vaccines to creating a web-based therapeutic evidence library, Zaidi’s USC Mann experiences prepared him well for his first pharmacy residency.

Observing his father take many types of medications every day, Syed Zaidi became fascinated by the healing power packed into these small, multicolored pills. He started thinking about pursuing a career in pharmacy to make a difference in his father’s life. As time passed, that desire became focused on helping people care for their chronic conditions through medication management.

Zaidi’s family moved from Pakistan to the “land of opportunity” in 1994, when he was 18 months old. Like many immigrants, Zaidi said, they migrated to the U.S. for better careers, education and life, landing in Los Angeles, where they have stayed ever since.

After high school, Zaidi went to Santa Monica College and later transferred to the University of California, San Diego for a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. Then he entered banking to help his family financially.

All the while, though, Zaidi kept taking more classes and researching pharmacy schools. The USC Mann School immediately stood out to him, he said, citing its great alumni network and partnerships with local hospital systems and pharmaceutical companies, along with the faculty’s knowledge and expertise. The Mann School was his first choice, and he never needed a second one.

For his PharmD Scholarly Project, Zaidi helped develop a web-based therapeutic evidence library to support pharmacist recommendations. Working closely with Steven Chen, associate dean for clinical affairs and the William A. Heeres and Josephine Heeres Chair in Community Pharmacy, Zaidi created resources for pharmacists at the California Right Meds Collaborative (CRMC). Chen also founded CMRC, which makes medication management more efficient, safe and effective by using pharmacists as the centralized medication experts on healthcare teams.

Zaidi with friends at the White Coat ceremony in fall 2019. (Photo courtesy of Syed Zaidi)

“That’s one of the many enriching experiences that I am definitely going to cherish,” Zaidi said. He added that many of his experiences at the Mann School were possible because of the friendships he had made during the four years at USC. “They are all from different areas and different backgrounds,” Zaidi added. “The diversity was very unique at USC.”

Zaidi was in a community rotation course for the inter-professional pharmacy experience (IPPE) program when the pandemic started. He joined a mass vaccination campaign led by USC Mann, administering COVID-19 vaccines and providing consultations at the Lincoln Park vaccination site. As a student pharmacist, Zaidi consulted vaccine recipients on how to reduce symptoms from adverse reactions.

He said the experience gave him the ability to practice administering vaccines in the appropriate way. It soon became second nature to him. “One of the great highlights as a student at USC Mann was being able to contribute to my Los Angeles community in the fight to decrease the number of cases in L.A. County as the pandemic spread,” Zaidi added.

He said the classes, rotations and experiences helped him grow professionally and personally.

Zaidi will soon start his PGY1 pharmacy managed care residency at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, Calif. In the long term, Zaidi is looking forward to a rewarding career in pharmacy managed care or ambulatory care.